TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan and France signed a deal on military equipment and technology transfers on Friday, in a move to drive cooperation and joint development of defense gear, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe strengthens security ties with major powers.
Japan, at odds with China on territorial and other issues, has reached similar deals with Britain and Australia over the past two years, while ending a ban on its military fighting abroad and easing restrictions on weapons exports.
The agreement encourages bilateral defense cooperation by ensuring that transferred technology and equipment will not be provided to a third country without the consent of the country of origin.
"I think we've managed to bring our bilateral security and defense cooperation one step forward ... It is a major achievement that we've agreed on specific plans of cooperation," Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said.
Kishida was speaking at a Tokyo news conference after a joint meeting of Japanese and French foreign and defense ministers.
Potential items of cooperation include unmanned gear for mine removal, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
"Both France and Japan have high-tech companies in this field. If we work together, we can find a win-win solution," he said.
Japan and France also agreed to work toward concluding an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement (ACSA), which provides a framework for logistic cooperation between armed forces. Japan already has ACSAs with the United States and Australia.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Hugh Lawson)